My awesome Odissi dancer friend Sonali Mishra has started Global Rasika, a new initiative dedicated to fostering critical thinking and discourse in Odissi. I contributed an article to the opening issue. Language, regionalism and their connections to dance have been on my mind for a while now. This was a good opportunity to untangle some of those thoughts.
Feature Image by Debiprasad Sahoo, sourced from the original article at www.globalrasika.com.
This Place We Call Home
What characterises a classical dance, and how does the geography of language shape this identity? Odissi makes for an interesting case in point. Its provenance is established and solidified by linking it to the history of Orissan temple sculpture, and later to practices of performance and worship that flourished within and around Orissan temple spaces.
‘Orissa’, or Odisha, as it is now known, has been a landmass of varying dimensions. In the 20th century, it was part of Bengal Presidency and then the Bihar and Orissa Province, finally attaining statehood in its present form in 1936, with the addition of Ganjam district from the Madras Presidency. Oriya is the most prominent spoken language (and also the official language) in Orissa. Telugu, Bangla and a host of regional dialects are also spoken in different parts of the state.